How-To: Write a Tutorial
This community thrives on information, and writing tutorials is one of the best ways to provide that information. Tutorials show other people how a certain procedure is performed, and it enables and empowers them to save money by working on their own car, or simply put their enthusiast enthusiasm to work. Some of us were born with a wrench in our hands, while others see things like a valve cover replacement as a daunting task. Tutorials are provided to walk people through procedures for completing automotive tasks so they can feel comfortable and confident. That's how enthusiasts become gearheads.
This tutorial is designed to teach you how to write a tutorial. I've spent a great deal of time writing tutorials for the CruzeTalk community for any problem that comes up so I can help people save money when they work on their own vehicle and help them understand how this engine works. Knowledge is power, and this is certainly no exception. It is my hope that my tutorials encourage others to contribute as well.
- A digital camera (phone camera works too)
- A willingness to help others
- A computer (I don't recommend trying to write tutorials from a mobile phone)
Observe the layout of this tutorial. We have an title in bold that matches the title of this thread. It starts with "How-To:" and is clear and short. When writing a tutorial, split the tutorial into distinct sections. I like to place all of the tutorial sections in bold to make everything easy to read.
- Overview: This explains what the tutorial will cover and why someone might want to perform the procedure on their vehicle. Make your overview thorough but brief. If you find yourself writing an essay, it may be appropriate to create a new thread on that topic that you can link to in the tutorial thread.
- Tools Required: This is a critical component in a tutorial. This allows whoever is going to attempt the procedure on their car to be fully prepared, assuming everything goes to plan. Be sure to include the little things like any extensions you need and specific socket or bit sizes.
- Part Required: When replacing a component such as a valve cover or turbo oil feed line, it is very helpful to provide the part number you purchased so someone can be prepared. Be sure to list every part that needs to be replaced and its associated part number.
- Procedure: This is the meat of your tutorial and goes step by step explaining what to do.
During the procedure, document every step. Since a tutorial is often written on a procedure that you are performing for the first time, be sure to allocate additional time. Take pictures of every component and its location, every wire you need to unplug, and so forth. Since you are taking pictures while performing the procedure, allocate some time to make sure that you get the necessary pictures. It is very easy to get too caught up with getting the job done quickly at the expense of being thorough with your documentation of the procedure. Be aware of what time it is and the fact that your photo quality will degrade at night.
Torque specs. Torque specs. Torque specs. Every bolt that needs to be turned has to have a torque spec. If you're going to do something, do it right. Don't half-ass a tutorial and say "oh just tighten it till it's good and tight." For someone who hasn't worked on a car, "good and tight" could turn a 30 minute job into a 3-hour job. If you write a tutorial, document the torque spec you need to use for every bolt that needs to be tightened.
If you have some automotive experience, be sure to note particular areas of concern. Don't assume everyone's stupid, but be mindful of the fact that not everyone has the mechanical experience and aptitude that you do. Take note of areas where people need to be especially cautious and areas where something could go wrong if someone isn't careful. Aside from the obligatory "don't drop that bolt down the engine bay," stress that certain parts should be approached carefully. For example, the oil line feed replacement involves tightening a bolt on the engine block. Over-tightening this bolt and breaking it in the block will lead to a colossal headache, so I stressed that a torque wrench must be used with the correct torque spec. Making note of these areas of concern will give your reader more confidence that they can tackle this project on their own.
When uploading photos, I strongly recommend using a reputable hosting source. Photobucket seems to be great for that purpose. I cannot count how many times I've seen a tutorial on another forum where someone took the time to post pictures, then deleted the pictures off their hosting site and we ended up with explanations but no pictures. If possible, take the time to upload the pictures to this site using the attachment option and insert them into the thread. That way, they will always stick with the forum and won't get lost. Personally, I have used Photobucket and Imageshack (which I pay the subscription for) for my image hosting, simply because it allows me to acquire the URL easily. You can still acquire the URL after you attach the image to this forum, however. When posting a photo, you can embed the image into the tutorial using the picture frame icon in the toolbar, to the left of the filmstrip icon and the right of the x-ed out URL icon. When uploading pictures using the built-in attachment option on the forum, you can insert the picture using the "Insert Inline" button in the attachment window.
Lastly, be sure you're creating your thread in the correct section.